Job Skills For The Future – Another Language

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

As you’ve been following along, I’m discussing what job skills are important in the future. Having covered culture knowledge, let’s lay down the hard truth about the future.

Knowing another language is going to be more important for future careers It’s becoming more important now.

Let’s take a look at the current state of things:

  • In Silicon Valley I see calls for specifically Bi-lingual jobs, with hints of it elsewhere in the US. My friends who have skills beyond English – be they professional or not – are at a distinct advantage here (and elsewhere to judge by the assorted recruiter emails).
  • If you’re in any international business, have any international customers, or just work in certain locations, speaking additional languages can help.  If nothing else you might not speak someone else’s language, but you might have a second language in common.
  • Company buyouts, acquisitions, new partnerships inevitably require you to deal with people from around the world. New vendors may not be n your state, your country, or your continent. All my previous writing on the importance of Vendor Management and Culture Knowledge being important in the future? Now you see where Language skills make those abilities even more powerful.

By the way, there’s no equivalent of the Star Trek Universal Translator yet.  I’m not holding my breath.

Right now having a language other than English is a big advantage, if not just a requirement. None of the trends above seem to be reversing, so it’s going to become more and more of an advantage – and a requirement.

My prediction is that knowing another language outside of English, with at least basic fluency, is going to be a major job skill for the future. It will give you a very big edge over others, and for more jobs it will either be required, or be something you expect to get.

I don’t see any hope of this trend reversing. If you’re young and/or have time to learn a new language, you can gain quite an advantage in the future.


– Steve

Job Skills For The Future – Culture Knowledge

(This column is posted at  Steve’s Tumblr)

As noted last week, I decided it’s time to put on my Geek Job Guru Hat again and discuss the job skills people are going to need in the future. This is, of course, based on my own experience (a manager in IT) so not all of it will apply. But It should give you a good idea of what to think of in the next five-ten years.

Last time I discussed the need for Vendor Management. If anything, that seems even more apparent as I run into all kinds of outsourced functions at companies.

However, next up let’s talk something that seems a bit more touchy-feely: Culture knowledge.

Let me avoid my usual subtlety and be blunt: the world is getting drawn closer together all the time and demographics are changing in many areas, so knowing about other cultures will be paramount for job success.

It’s pretty important now, but is well on it’s way to being indispensable in many areas. I’m in freaking Silicon Valley and find I have to correct people on cultural assumptions.  That’s now.

In the future you’re going to have to get along with people from different subcultures in your own country due to changes in business and demographics. The years to come will mean you’ll be exposed to cultures in other countries as the world gets smaller.. Your jobs to come may even require you to understand subcultures in other cultures not your own.

It’s a smaller world, and you can be pretty sure you’re not so much aware of other cultures, but merely less ignorant than most. Trust me, that’s how I view it sometime.

So what kind of culture knowledge will you want? I’m glad you ask. Here’s what’s helped me.

  • Holidays. No really, be aware of major holidays as you’ll better understand time off, commentary, and socializing in other cultures. It can also help when you’re sensitive about things.
  • Communications. People, obviously, communicate differently in different cultures. Sure it seems obvious you need to get other cultures to communicate properly, but that requires making an actual effort, notj ust relying on your probably limited knowledge. I dealt with this when I discovered regional differences among different Indian regions that completely threw me – and explained a team’s bad dynamics.
  • Manners. Something we Americans could be better at. you’re going to want to understand manners as you deal with people in different cultures so you don’t A) piss them off, and B) misunderstand them. Take it from a man who’s not exactly subtle, what seems to be a gregarious American Dude can come off as anything from annoyingly arrogant to charmingly eccentric depending on other culture.
  • Values. What is valued in a different culture is important to understanding motivations, communications, and negotiations. Once when dealing with a foreign company I found they were mistrusting of my team – only to later realize that I had to build a relationship with them, so we worked to their rythm and requirements.
  • Humility. Understanding other cultures – and how they view you – is an excellent ego-deflater.

The world is not going to stop connecting, and you can be sure your job isn’t. So get ready to understand other cultures in your career – it’s going to be a distinct advantage.

As for how to do it, my recommendations are to find ways to get informed – books, etc. – but mostly talk to people with the knowledge. Several times I built better relationships with people in Japan due to friends that had lived and worked there. Early experiences in IT with people from India helped me understand cultural issues better – and I had people with the patience to explain things to a young, unsubtle, know-it-all programmer.

Whe would this fit in your job search?  If you have this skill how would you describe it?

COVER LETTER: Only call out cultural knowledge if the job posting asks about it, and its a major part of the job. Otherwise it can seem like bragging (and most people who brag about cultural knowledge don’t have it).

RESUME: Only put cultural knowledge on your resume if it’s very vital to the job, otherwise it can also sound like bragging. A more subtle approach such as “work with international teams” is a good way to do it.

INTERVIEW: Culture knowledge often comes up in interviews, so be sure you have some stories to relate from your past.  This is where you can cut loose as you answer specific questions.

Hope this helps you out in the future! The future is coming faster than you may think . . .

– Steve

Job Skills For The Future: Vendor Management

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

In a recent meeting, a manager much higher than I said something that blew me away: Vendor Management is a job skill of the future.

First, because I realized she was right and I hadn’t thought of it.

Secondly because I realized that’s an issue I’ve not covered here, and if I’m going to be the geek job guru I need to cover skills we progeeks need for the future. So welcome to my latest series – Job Skills For The Future.

I can’t claim it’s the most original title. But anyway, let’s talk Vendor Management, because we should.

Vendor Management – You’re Going To Need It

What do I mean by Vendor Management? Pretty simple – Vendor Management is working with a company outside of your own to get goods and services.

OK, it’s not simple because it involves negotiation, contracts, communication, money, and of course inevitable complex legal agreements. I’ve been on both sides of the equation and trust me, Vendor Management is a complete skillset of its own. There are people that specialize in it as part of their other job functions, and for some it’s most of their job function.

(which is also a way of saying if you can do it and have done it, put it on your resume, people probably need it.)

But why is this a job skill that’s important for the future? It’s pretty important now, what’s the deal?

It’s important for your future: As you move up in your career, it’s more and more likely that you’ll have to interact with vendors. So for your own sake, look for opportunities to learn it.

People are outsourcing more than ever: Ever feel like a lot of your company’s functions are outsourced? That’s because they are – its’ easier to do than ever and in a complex, more necessary to do (because of the need for specialists). In the future there will be more outsourcing – I used to joke I could make a triple A game with a five person staff by outsourcing, and its not as funny as it was.

By the way outsourcing isn’t just contractors. It’s software or it’s meal services or whatever.

You’re inevitably getting something from a vendor: You company or yourself as a freelancer is going to inevitable interact with a vendor. Sure, it may not be many, but vendors interact with other vendors and so on. You might as well get those vendor management skills together because like it or not, even a few vendor relationships probably spiderweb into fr more tan you realize.0

Vendors change: Right now how many people get important software services on the web via subscription? I recall a time when that seemed odd or impossible. That outsourcing/insoucring strategy that seems good today will change in a few years. Vendor relations and needs and services change – so getting good at Vendor Management gets you ready for transformations.  Even if it’s not your job now . . .

It’s only going to get more complicated from here.

So How Do I Get Good At It?

So how do you get good at Vendor Management? Well most of my experience was a mix of accident and “call Steve he likes to talk to people.” But here’s what I found and what I’ve seen.

  • First, be aware of Vendor relations period. Don’t tune it out, or ignore it, or pray it goes away (not that I haven’t done those things). Listen and learn. As of late just paying attention helped me find out how some Vendors have changed (sadly, for the worst).
  • Second, find an edge for dealing with Vendors – are you good at talking, good at the law, good at analyzing proposals? Find where you’re good, because unless it’s a major part of your job, you should develop the part you need.  (My advantage is persistence and friendliness).
  • Third, go and try it out. One of my major realizations lately is that as my experience is piecemeal, I need more. The people really good at Vendor Management seem to dive into it and learn – so seek it out.
  • Fourth and finally, and though I say this often, pay attention to the news. Knowing what vendors are out there is helpeful. Many’s the time I’ve found some new service and wished I’d known more about it.

As I said, I could be a bit better at this – but I hope my advice helps you.  I’ll share any more insights I have.

If you’re a Freelancer? Then you’re gonna have to deal with a lot of Vendor Management, so get good at it now.

– Steve